ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

A Collection Of Negro Traditional & Folk Songs with Sheet Music Lyrics & Commentaries - online book

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Shopping Discounts



Share page  Visit Us On FB


Previous Contents Next
NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
29
the happiest days of my life. It does my heart good to hear a white lady from a great university urge us to treasure our racial folk-songs because scholars prize them. We must all work together to collect them and save them for future generations."
While I was in Waco, my old home, Professor A. J. Armstrong of Baylor University, took me to a concert given by a Negro college there. The choral club rendered, for the pleasure of the general audi­ence, such selections as the Sextette from Lucia, and for my special delectation some of the old folk-songs. And Judge West and Miss Decca West gave a garden party for me on the lawn at Minglewood, the chief feature of which was the singing of a number of folk-songs by the choral club of Paul Quinn College, who had sung at the Texas Folk-lore Association some years before.
Mrs. Tom Bartlett, of Marlin, who with the assistance of Mrs. Buie had given me a number of songs for my collection, invited me down to a "festibul" she was giving in my honor. For the benefit of uninitiate Northerners, I perhaps should explain that that is a term used in my childhood to designate the more pretentious social af­fairs given by colored folk. This was on the Bartlett lawn at sunset; and after speeches of welcome from Dr. Torbett and Tom Connally, Congressman from the district, the choir of the colored Baptist church gathered by the piano in the parlor and sang with beautiful harmony a number of the old songs that I loved best.
During one of the pauses, Aunt Bedie, an aged Negress who had been in the Bartlett family service for generations, came forward to the cement walk in front of us who were gathered on the lawn, and said, "Now I'm gwine to sing you my song."
With that she began an extraordinary chant which she said she had made up, "words and chune, too," the refrain of which was
I am Mary Maggalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus.
No instrument could reproduce and no notation record the trills and quavers of that song. Presently she paused, and said, "Now I'm gwine to twist myself round a little." With that, she hitched up one shoulder, then the other, and began a shimmy to the rhythm of her chant, very fantastic, very passionate.
In a few minutes more she announced, "Now I'm gwine to turn myself loose a little." Thereupon she began to whirl like a dancing dervish, her chant growing louder and wilder, her motions more un­restrained, until Mrs. Bartlett led her away. I have never seen any­thing like it.